Revealed: An Arab prince’s secret proposal to sell the Western Wall to the Jews

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Revealed: An Arab prince’s secret proposal to sell the Western Wall to the Jews

A quixotic overture by a courageous prince lay hidden in files at the UK Colonial Office for 90 years, where this author discovered it. Now it can proudly take its place in history

On August 29, 1929, Prince Mohamed Ali Pasha, the uncle and future regent to King Farouk of Egypt, walked into the British Embassy in Istanbul and hand-delivered a letter to British Ambassador Sir George Clerk. The letter was addressed to the British High Commissioner for Palestine, Sir John Chancellor. The prince asked Ambassador Clerk to forward the letter to Chancellor in Jerusalem.

The prince had written and signed the letter less than one week after the shocking August 24, 1929, massacres in Hebron, following months of rising tensions at the Western (Wailing) Wall. The letter began by deploring the violence, with the prince expressing hope the Arabs and Jews could settle their differences peacefully. The prince then offered a stunning suggestion:

My proposal for a solution is that, instead of fighting or dealing unjustly by one party or the other, it would be infinitely better to come to an understanding. The Mohametans may be willing to accept a sum of money which would help them to do good for the community and as the Jews are rich, if this thing [the Wailing Wall] is so much desired by them, there seems no reason why they should not pay for it. If this could be done, it would avoid coercion and possibly injustice to one or other of the parties. Certainly I am sure the Mohametans and Arabs will not accept a small sum such as £10,000 or even £20,000 for a matter in which their honour is so far involved… Let them give £100,000 and I feel sure this would settle the difference.

This is the story of Prince Mohamed Ali Pasha’s surprise proposal to sell the Western Wall to the Jews, revealed here for the first time.

***

The Temple Mount and the Western Wall today represent the defining religious symbols of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The same was true during the 1920’s, following the British conquest of Palestine. Muslims and Jews clashed repeatedly over the Wall throughout the 1920’s.

The Jews claimed rights of prayer at the Wall, the only surviving remnant of the ancient Temples and the holiest and most sacred site for Jews to pray. Jews had been praying at or near the Wall nearly continuously since the Roman conquest.

‘The Mohametans may be willing to accept a sum of money which would help them to do good for the community and as the Jews are rich, if this thing [the Wailing Wall] is so much desired by them, there seems no reason why they should not pay for it’

The Muslims, for their part, also regarded the Wall (or the Buraq, named for Mohammed’s steed whom the Angel Gabriel, according to Muslim legend, tethered to the Wall at the end of Mohammed’s celestial journey from Mecca) as an Islamic Holy site that had been dedicated as Wakf property nearly a millennium ago. The Muslims asserted absolute ownership of both the Wall and the narrow strip of pavement facing the Wall. Prior to 1967, as shown in the following photograph, the pavement was sandwiched between the Wall on one side and an area of small dwellings, known as the “Moghrabi Quarter,” on the other side:

The Western Wall and narrow strip of pavement, late 19th Century (Library of Congress).

The Muslims refused to accord the Jews any rights to pray at the Wall, for fear the Jews would use that as a wedge to encroach further on Muslim property and eventually seize control of the entire Temple Mount area. During Ottoman times the Jews would pay small bribes to bring chairs and benches to the Wall, even as the Ottoman authorities issued formal rulings banning such practices as late as 1911.

After the British captured Jerusalem in December 1917, General Allenby immediately pledged to honor the so-called Status Quo prevailing at the Holy Sites. Allenby’s pledge became embedded as a legal concept five years later in Article 13 of the Mandate for Palestine, requiring the British to “preserve existing rights” at the Holy Sites.

The British soon found themselves caught in the middle between conflicting Jewish and Muslim assertions of rights and claims to the Western Wall and the pavement facing the Wall. The Mandatory authorities struggled to enforce the shaky Status Quo that had prevailed during Ottoman times, when Jews were allowed to utter individual prayers at the Wall, but not allowed to take any steps which could be viewed as asserting symbolic ownership of the Wall. Thus, the British enforced the Turkish ban on the Jews bringing chairs and benches to the Wall, as well as most other accoutrements of congregational prayer.

Jewish Legion soldiers at the Western Wall after British conquest of Jerusalem, 1917 (Public Domain)

The tensions led to controversy at the Wall during Passover 1922, Yom Kippur 1923 and Yom Kippur 1925. The most notable confrontation occurred on Yom Kippur 1928, when the British Deputy District Commissioner for Jerusalem, E. Keith-Roach, ordered the forcible removal of a screen (mehitza) the Jews had placed on the pavement in front of the Wall to divide men from women, causing the Jews to file an angry protest with the League of Nations. Tensions continued escalating during 1929 as the Mufti, Haj Amin al-Husseini, launched the so-called Buraq Campaign to galvanize Muslim and Arab Nationalist sentiment around the Wall dispute. The Jews likewise formed groups to “defend” their asserted rights to the Wall.

The tensions reached boiling point and exploded into violence in August 1929. On Tisha b’Av (August 15) 1929, a group of Jewish youth marched to the Wall, where they raised the blue and white flag, listened to a brief speech from one of their leaders, and sang the Hatikvah. The Muslims held a counter-demonstration the following day, the Prophet Mohammed’s birthday. The Muslim demonstration quickly turned violent, resulting in the murders of several Jews outside the Old City. The violence continued throughout the following week, culminating in the Hebron massacre of August 24, 1929, where approximately 60 Jews were butchered.

Jews flee the Old City of Jerusalem, August 1929. (US Library of Congress / Public Domain)

While the history of the violent clashes at the Wall during the 1920s has been told many times, less-known were various attempts by the Jews and British to strike a deal with the Muslims to buy the area in front of the Wall and the Wall itself.

Sir Ronald Storrs (Library of Congress / Public Domain)

In the spring of 1918, for example, Chaim Weizmann approached the British military government about buying the Wall and pavement area, along with the Moghrabi dwellings. The Military Governor, Sir Ronald Storrs, floated the idea with the Muslim community. Storrs reported the Muslims were offended, and “it would be a grave error of policy for the Military Government to raise the question at all.”

In August 1918, another British Official, Brigadier General Sir Gilbert Clayton, told the Muslims they might be able to secure “a large sum of money for a property which is to-day of little value.” The Muslims, however, opposed any such initiative, fearing it would be the first step toward Jewish encroachment on the Temple Mount.

In October 1918, Clayton notified London of an unauthorized Jewish attempt to buy the Wall, interfering with Clayton’s ongoing, quiet efforts to persuade the Arabs to consider selling the Wall:

“Up to quite recently signs were not wanting that the Moslem Dignitaries and notables were beginning to be impressed with the arguments explained to them at great length in favour of the scheme [for the Jews to buy the Wall]. The hopelessness … of obtaining the funds to put into effect … the restoration of the Haram es Sharif, the possibility of replenishing the Wakf coffers and so promoting Moslem education of a liberal scale, the comparative unimportance and squalor of the buildings and their [Moroccan] inhabitants in the precinct, the lurking fear that they might have one day to yield for nothing (as a City improvement scheme or otherwise) that for which they would now receive a very large sum of money – these and a variety of other considerations appeared to be modifying a ‘non possumus’ attitude into one of critical apprehension and fear of the effect on the local and general Islamic world. From the moment, however, that an attempt was apparently made by a Jerusalem Jew (doubtless without the knowledge of the Zionist Commission) to get into direct pecuniary contact with the Moslems concerned something approaching a panic set in, and from that day things have gone from bad to worse in so far as concerns the Zionist hopes in this respect.”

In 1926, a Jewish effort was launched to buy properties in front of the Wall as a first step toward acquiring the entire Moghrabi area and eventually the Wall itself. In early October 1928, Frederick Kisch, a Jerusalem-based Zionist official proposed, in a confidential letter to the Zionist Executive in London, that the Muslims be compelled to sell the pavement and the Moghrabi area to the Jews for £100,000, “in exchange for another suitable area in the Old City, with the inevitable addition of a cash payment for the benefit of the Wakf authorities.”

But these efforts, like those preceding them, went nowhere.

Three unique initiatives

Suddenly, however, in the days immediately following the Hebron massacre, three new initiatives appeared. While none of these new initiatives succeeded, their close proximity to each other and the dramatic nature of their presentation make them, especially Prince Mohamed Ali Pasha’s proposal, unique in the history of Mandate Palestine.

The first initiative came from a prominent Egyptian Jew, the Baron Felix de Menasce, the President of the Israelite Community in Alexandria. On August 26, 1929, only two days after the Hebron Massacre, Menasce walked into the British Embassy in Paris and met with Adrian Holman, the Second Secretary at the Embassy. Later that day Holman cabled the Foreign Office in London and reported as follows:

“[Menasce] explained to me at some length that the frequent cases of rioting at the Wailing Wall were due to the fact that the buildings surrounding the Wall were in the hands of the Moslems and had always been looked upon by the British Government as bearing a religious character. It had consequently always proved impossible for the Jews to buy the buildings in question and thus prevent troubles in the future. He maintained that the buildings were purely civil as opposed to religious and that the present moment might be an opportune one for the British Government to reconsider the possibility of arranging for the Jewish community to buy the buildings for demolition or other purposes. He was sure that if this were done, the Jewish community throughout the world would easily be able to find the necessary sum of money.”

George W. Rendell of the Foreign Office’s Eastern Division responded to Holman’s cable on September 7, noting the Muslims viewed the Wall as a religious site and would not be willing to sell the nearby dwellings to the Jews. Rendell poured more cold water on the idea, adding, “[t]he Colonial Office are, I think, familiar with the advantages and difficulties of a solution on the lines of the Baron de Menasce’s proposal, and seeing how overworked they are at the moment with a variety of Middle Eastern crises, I am not adding to their correspondence by passing the suggestion on to them.”

Dr. Chaim Weizmann. (AP Photo 1938)

Menasce sent a handwritten letter in French to Weizmann reporting on his meeting with Holman at the British Embassy in Paris. Menasce wrote, “J’ai la conviction c’est le moment psychologique de transfer tout l’argent necessaire, si jamais les Juifs deraint acheter ce Wakf …” (“I am convinced that if the Jews are ever going to buy this Wakf, this is, psychologically, the right time to find all the necessary money …”) No record has been found indicating whether Menasce had been acting on Weizmann’s behalf, or whether Weizmann ever responded to Menasce.

The second initiative came from Pinchas Rutenberg, the Managing Director of the Palestine Electric Corporation. On August 29, 1929, three days after Menasce’s meeting at the British Embassy in Paris, Rutenberg sent a letter to Lord Reading (previously known as Rufus Isaacs, a Jew and Chairman of the Palestine Electric Corporation), urging the British government to expropriate the entire area in front of the Wailing Wall to create “a suitable and dignified Jewish praying place.”

This was not the first time expropriation had been floated, but never at such a high level. Rutenberg was the preeminent Jewish businessman in Palestine and the future Chair of the Va’ad Leumi. Lord Reading took matters to the very highest level of the British Government, forwarding Rutenberg’s letter to Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald the next day, with a cover letter of endorsement:

“I would therefore earnestly represent that the necessary measures should be adopted as soon as practicable to make a complete end of this cause of dispute by expropriating the more extended area, as suggested by Mr. Rutenberg in his letter to me. I understand that this could be accomplished without interfering with any part of Moslem ‘Holy Ground.’”

But nothing came of Rutenberg’s expropriation proposal. The Colonial Office reacted negatively, noting “the present time is not opportune for considering the question of compulsory expropriation… Quite apart from the legal aspect, such action would be intensely resented by the Moslems and we have taken the line hitherto that expropriation is out of the question.”

In addition, High Commissioner Chancellor had already told the Permanent Mandates Commission (PMC) of the League of Nations in July 1929 that the first conclusion he came to after arriving in Palestine as High Commissioner and studying the Western Wall issue was that “there must not … be any attempt to expropriate, in favour of the Jews, the area of the pavement in front of the Wall.”

Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husseini (Library of Congress / Public Domain)

However, at that same PMC meeting, Chancellor disclosed he personally had asked the Mufti to consider selling the Moghrabi dwellings (“mean hovels,” as he described them) to the Jews, assuming the Jews would pay to relocate the Moghrabi inhabitants to superior accommodations elsewhere. Chancellor explained the Jews would be able “to make there a courtyard surrounded by a loggia where they could say their prayers in peace and in dignified surroundings.”

Weizmann embraced the idea and had £70,000 at the ready. But the Mufti rejected the plan, even after Chancellor suggested the Mufti consider an indirect sale, whereby the Mufti would transfer the property to the Mandatory Government as middleman, which would then complete the sale to the Jews, thereby allowing the Mufti to avoid looking as if he had sold Muslim property to the Jews.

An unprecedented proposal

The third initiative involved Prince Mohamed Ali Pasha of Egypt. Ali Pasha had built the famous Manial Palace on Rhoda Island on the Nile River in Cairo. The prince was the uncle of and future Regent to Farouk, the future King of Egypt. Those who knew Ali Pasha regarded him as a “very liberal-minded man,” with a “courtly bearing.” Storrs described Ali Pasha in his memoirs as “Prince Muhammad, afterwards Regent, with his great “lucky” emerald ring, the revived Oriental splendours of his Manial Palace, his courtly bearing and graceful entertainment; his fine devotion to his mother.” The Jewish, Alexandria-based lawyer Alec Alexander once described Ali Pasha as “the one person who could use his good offices to bring about peace between Muslims and Jews.”

Prince Mohamed Ali Pasha (Public Domain)

In an amazing coincidence of history, Ali Pasha entered the stage on August 29, 1929, the same day Rutenberg had sent his letter to Lord Reading, and only three days after Menasce’s meeting with Holman at the British Embassy in Paris.
On that fateful day of August 29, 1929, Ali Pasha, while on a visit to Istanbul, hand-delivered to the British Ambassador to Turkey, Sir George Clerk, a letter addressed to High Commissioner Chancellor in Jerusalem. The letter contained a stunning proposal from Ali Pasha for settling the Muslim-Jewish dispute over the Western Wall:

“Having heard about the troubles going on in Palestine between Jews and Mohametans, and having a certain knowledge of the Arab and Mohametan aspirations, I thought I might be of service outlining a proposal by which this quarrel might perhaps be ended peacefully.

The Mohametans and Arabs having been masters in Palestine for over one thousand years, they are fighting for their honour and do not want to lose anything which they have acquired as a possession. They fear that either through administrative channels or by force they will be compelled ultimately to relinquish rights they have held for so long.

Every one knows that in every country in law after the lapse of a certain period proprietary rights are established. In this case the rights of the Mohametans go back one thousand years.

My proposal for a solution is that, instead of fighting or dealing unjustly by one party or the other, it would be infinitely better to come to an understanding. The Mohametans may be willing to accept a sum of money which would help them to do good for the community and as the Jews are rich, if this thing is so much desired by them, there seems no reason why they should not pay for it. If this could be done, it would avoid coercion and possibly injustice to one or other of the parties.

Certainly I am sure the Mohametans and Arabs will not accept a small sum such as £10,000 or even £20,000 for a matter in which their honour is so far involved. In Zurich the Zionists have collected £240,000 for Palestine. Let them give £100,000 and I feel sure this would settle the difference.”

Although the letter does not specifically mention a “sale” of the Wall, Ali Pasha made clear in his meeting with Ambassador Clerk that selling the Wall was precisely his intention. According to Clerk’s contemporaneous recollection of their conversation, Ali Pasha “submit a suggestion which would, he thought, provide a solution to the question of the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem;” specifically, “the idea of the Jews buying the Wall.”

Ali Pasha’s letter was extraordinary. No one in the Muslim world had previously – or ever since – proposed to sell the Western Wall to the Jews. Surely Ali Pasha never spoke a word of this to anyone in the Muslim world, as he lived peacefully for nearly three more decades

But Ambassador Clerk never forwarded Ali Pasha’s letter to High Commissioner Chancellor in Jerusalem. Instead, Clerk sent Ali Pasha’s letter directly to the Foreign Office in London, along with a cover note adding his own observation that “the idea of the Jews buying the Wall has long been considered and rejected, and recent events seem scarcely favorable to the idea of the Muslims accepting even as fancy a price as £100,000, supposing the Jews were prepared to offer that sum.”

The Foreign Office kept Clerk’s original cover letter in its files, together with a copy of Ali Pasha’s letter. The Foreign Office made the following file notation regarding the prince’s letter:

Foreign Office File entry, E 4557/204/65 (September 3, 1929; photo by the author).

W. L. Knight of the Foreign Office made a sarcastic handwritten file entry several days later:

“It would appear from the last para. of the prince’s letter that while the Jerusalem Arabs would scorn to sell their honour cheap, they would probably be prepared to do so for £100,000!”

Foreign Office File entry, E 4557/204/65 (September 10, 1929; photo by the author).

The Foreign Office later recorded the prince’s letter in its official index for 1929 as, “Suggested sale of wall to Jews by Moslems: proposal of Prince Mohamed Ali Pasha:”

Foreign Office Index, 1929 (photo by the author).

The Foreign Office sent the original of Ali Pasha’s letter, along with the calling card Ali Pasha had given to Ambassador Clerk, to the Colonial Office, where both items were tucked inside an envelope and filed away for the next 90 years.

The prince’s calling card, given to the British Ambassador to Turkey, Sir George Clerk, on August 29, 1929 (CO 733/163/5, British National Archives, London; photo by the author).

Ali Pasha’s letter was extraordinary. No one in the Muslim world had previously – or ever since – proposed to sell the Western Wall to the Jews. Surely Ali Pasha never spoke a word of this to anyone in the Muslim world, as he lived peacefully for nearly three more decades. Nor is there any evidence he had any authority from the Muslim authorities in Jerusalem to make the offer. But his letter nevertheless represents an extraordinary and courageous – if not somewhat Quixotic – step for a highly prominent Arab and future Regent to the King of Egypt to have taken so soon after the August 1929 violence.

The letter also seriously undermines Muslim claims regarding the holiness of the Buraq. Surely Ali Pasha would never have dreamed of proposing to sell any truly sacred Muslim shrines, such as the Dome of the Rock or the Al Aqsa Mosque, to the Jews. Clearly he did not regard the Western Wall as even a minor Muslim religious site. Indeed, no evidence exists of any Muslim prayer or veneration at the Buraq since the 7th Century Muslim conquest of Jerusalem.

Moreover, during a 1930 courtroom trial presided over by three League of Nations-approved judges, pitting Muslims against Jews regarding their respective rights and claims to the Wall, the Jewish side offered evidence that the Muslims had repeatedly defiled the Wall and the pavement. Dr. Mordechai Eliash, the Jerusalem-based lawyer representing the Jewish side, said the following in his opening statement (pages 53-54 of the transcript, the only surviving copy of which is located at King’s College, London):

“Evidence will be brought before you that time and again the Wall was desecrated by actually smearing human excreta on its stones. Filth and rubbish were always allowed by the Mughrabis to accumulate there, while time and again have Jewish individuals and organized communities paid for the sweeping and cleaning of the area in front of the Wall, and it will be shown to you that it was through Jewish intervention that a sewage drain was not laid close to the Wall …”

In any event, no record was found of any further action by Ali Pasha or the British Government regarding Ali Pasha’s proposal, nor is there any evidence in Chancellor’s files or his diary proving or even hinting he ever learned of the letter’s existence.

The original Ali Pasha letter, containing the only Arab offer ever to sell the Wall to the Jews, remained buried in the Colonial Office files for the next 90 years.

Prince Ali Pasha’s letter, August 29, 1929 (CO 733/163/5, British National Archives, London; photo by the author).

Prince Ali Pasha’s letter, August 29, 1929 (CO 733/163/5, British National Archives, London; photo by the author).

Two of Israel’s leading historians of the Mandate era, Professor Motti Golani of Tel Aviv University and Professor Hillel Cohen of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, examined Ali Pasha’s letter and the related documents at the author’s request last year. Both professors said they were unaware of Ali Pasha’s letter or of any prior publication mentioning it. Golani called it a “major discovery.” Cohen initially noted the absence of any specific reference to “selling” the Wall in the text of Ali Pasha’s letter, but after reading Clerk’s cover letter to the Foreign Office, Cohen acknowledged Ali Pasha’s letter indeed conveyed an implicit offer to sell the Wall.

One lingering question remains: is it possible Ali Pasha and Menasce knew of each other’s initiatives? Two very prominent Egyptians, one Muslim and one Jewish, within three days of each other separately approached the British Embassies in Istanbul and Paris to float the idea of the Jews buying the Western Wall and the surrounding area. Perhaps they had coordinated their efforts and stage-managed them as carefully as possible to avoid detection. Or perhaps neither had any idea of the other’s activity, and their visits to the British Embassies in Paris (Monday) and Istanbul (Thursday) of the same week were purely coincidental. We will leave that mystery for others to solve.

In any event, Prince Mohamed Ali Pasha’s letter stands as a remarkable testament to the bravery and creativity of this urbane and worldly Egyptian prince, who at great personal risk launched an initiative to bring peace to the Muslims and Jews of Mandate Palestine.

Law and the Arab-Israeli Conflict by Steven E. Zipperstein

The prince’s letter, concealed in the files of the Colonial Office for the past 90 years, can now proudly take its rightful place in history.

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Steven E. Zipperstein is the author of the forthcoming book “Law and the Arab-Israeli Conflict: The Trials of Palestine” (Routledge, March 2020), from which this article is derived. Zipperstein, a former United States federal prosecutor, is a senior fellow at the Center for Middle East Development at UCLA. He also teaches in UCLA’s Global Studies program and School of Public Affairs, and as a visiting professor at the Buchmann Faculty of Law, Tel Aviv University.

(Copyright Steven E. Zipperstein, 2020)

Tens of thousands pray at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem in Selichot (forgiveness) prayers, early on September 27, 2019. (Mendy Hechtman/Flash90)
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Rare Indian art displayed in London exhibition

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

Rare Indian art displayed in London exhibition

Titled ‘Forgotten Masters: Indian Painting for the East India Company’, the exhibition has opened at the Wallace Collection until April, showcasing artwork from various collections across the globe, curated by writer William Dalrymple.

WORLD Updated: Dec 05, 2019 06:42 IST

Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
Images of artwork at the London exhibition.
Images of artwork at the London exhibition.(SOURCED.)

Exquisite colonial-era paintings by artists such as Shaikh Zain ud-Din, Bhawani Das and Ghulam Ali Khan have been brought together for the first time in a major exhibition that shifts the focus from ‘Company School’ of painting to lesser known artists.

Titled ‘Forgotten Masters: Indian Painting for the East India Company’, the exhibition has opened at the Wallace Collection until April, showcasing artwork from various collections across the globe, curated by writer William Dalrymple.

The paintings were commissioned during the late eighteenth and nineteen centuries by East India Company officials and their wives, as well as by itinerant British artists and intellectuals passing through India for pleasure and instruction.

Comprising work from a variety of Indian traditions, organisers say the exhibition belatedly honours historically overlooked artists such as Shaikh Zain ud-Din, Bhawani Das, Shaikh Mohammad Amir of Karriah, Sita Ram, Bahadur Singh, Mihr Chand and Ghulam Ali Khan.

“The exhibition highlights the conversation between traditional Indian, Islamic and Western schools and features works from Mughal, Marathi, Punjabi, Pahari, Tamil and Telugu artists”, the organisers say.

The focus is on main centres of what has traditionally been described as the ‘Company School’ of painting: Calcutta and Lucknow, where Mughal painters from Murshidabad, Patna and Faizabad were employed; colonial Madras and Tanjore, where artists from south Indian traditions received patronage; and Delhi, where Mughal artists were based.

The exhibition includes a Mughal dagger, which was owned by a East India Company patron of this period: Claude Martin, who commissioned artists to create works of art depicting the flora, fauna and daily life in colonial India.

Xavier Bray of the Wallace Collection said: “We hope this exhibition will introduce a wider audience to one of the most interesting but often underappreciated phases of Indian painting, as well as explore the Wallace’s rich collection of Mughal arms and armour”.

Dalrymple added: “Forgotten Masters showcases the work of a series of extraordinary Indian artists, each with their own style and tastes and agency, whose brilliance has been frequently overlooked until now”.

“These masterpieces combine Indian and European influences to create rich, hybrid works which reflect the cultural fluidity of this period in India’s history.”

Trump abruptly cancels NATO news conference after summit turns sour

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNBC NEWS)

 

Trump abruptly cancels NATO news conference after summit turns sour

KEY POINTS
  • President Donald Trump on Wednesday abruptly canceled a news conference that was scheduled to cap a contentious trip to the U.K. for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s 70th anniversary meeting.
  • The presser was scheduled to come after a series of bilateral meetings with NATO members, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.
  • Hours before it was set to start, video emerged of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau caught on a hot mic apparently mocking Trump.
GP: Donald Trump NATO Summit 191204 BRITAIN-NATO-SUMMIT
US President Donald Trump (L) and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) pose for the family photo at the NATO summit at the Grove hotel in Watford, northeast of London on December 4, 2019.
Peter Nicholls | AFP | Getty Images

President Donald Trump on Wednesday abruptly canceled a press conference that was scheduled to cap a contentious trip to the U.K. for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s 70th anniversary meeting.

“When today’s meetings are over, I will be heading back to Washington,” Trump said in a series of tweets.

“We won’t be doing a press conference at the close of NATO because we did so many over the past two days. Safe travels to all!” Trump said.

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

Great progress has been made by NATO over the last three years. Countries other than the U.S. have agreed to pay 130 Billion Dollars more per year, and by 2024, that number will be 400 Billion Dollars. NATO will be richer and stronger than ever before….

14.5K people are talking about this

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

….Just finished meetings with Turkey and Germany. Heading to a meeting now with those countries that have met their 2% GOALS, followed by meetings with Denmark and Italy….

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

….When today’s meetings are over, I will be heading back to Washington. We won’t be doing a press conference at the close of NATO because we did so many over the past two days. Safe travels to all!

14.2K people are talking about this

The presser was scheduled to come after a series of bilateral meetings with NATO members, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.

Hours before the news conference was set to start, video emerged of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau caught on a hot mic mocking Trump.

Watch Trudeau, Macron and Johnson appear to gossip about Trump on hot mic

Trump offered a blunt retort when asked Wednesday about Trudeau’s comments.

“He’s two-faced,” Trump said, before adding, “I find him to be a very nice guy but the truth is I called him out on the fact that he’s not paying 2% and I guess he’s not very happy about it.” Trump has long griped about NATO members paying less than their “fair share” toward the alliance, and brought up the issue repeatedly over the two-day anniversary meeting this week.

In an audio clip later published by reporters covering the NATO event, Trump appeared to compliment himself for his harsh words toward Trudeau. “That was funny when I said the guy’s two-faced,” Trump is heard saying.

Trudeau, speaking with French President Emmanuel Macron, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, said that Trump “was late because he takes a 40-minute press conference off the top.”

“You just watched his team’s jaws drop to the floor,” Trudeau said at another point in the video, raising his eyebrows and motioning with his hand for effect.

None of the politicians in the hot mic video, which emerged on social media Tuesday evening, mentioned Trump by name. But Trudeau reportedly said Wednesday that it was Trump’s surprise announcement of the location for next year’s Group of Seven summit that made “his team’s jaws drop to the floor.”

Trump revealed Tuesday that the 2020 G-7 summit will be held at Camp David in Maryland, weeks after he retreated from a plan to host it at his own Miami golf resort.

Later Wednesday, while sitting alongside Conte, Trump explained that “There’s no reason to have press conferences because you had about eight of them,” apparently referring to his lengthy prior remarks to reporters.

The hot mic gossip was the latest point of tension at the meeting, but it was far from the only dispute between leaders on display.

Macron defended his recent claim that NATO was suffering from “brain death” from critics including Trump, who had called that comment “very nasty.”

The French leader also called out Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for his threat to oppose NATO’s plan for the defense of Baltic countries if it does not recognize groups Turkey deems as terrorists. The White House announced Wednesday morning that Trump had met with Erdogan during the NATO event.

Julian Assange: Sweden drops rape investigation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

Julian Assange: Sweden drops rape investigation

Julian Assange gestures to the media from a police vehicle on his arrival at Westminster Magistrates court on 11 April 2019Image copyright GETTY IMAGES
Image caption Assange was arrested in London after Ecuador abruptly withdrew its protection in April

Prosecutors in Sweden have dropped an investigation into a rape allegation made against Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange in 2010.

Assange, who denies the accusation, has avoided extradition to Sweden for seven years after seeking refuge at the Ecuadorean embassy in London in 2012.

The 48-year-old Australian was evicted in April and sentenced to 50 weeks in jail for breaching his bail conditions.

He is currently being held at Belmarsh prison in London.

The Swedish investigation had been shelved in 2017 but was re-opened earlier this year following his eviction from the embassy.

In June, the then UK Home Secretary, Sajid Javed, formally approved an extradition request from the US where Assange is wanted on 18 counts related to the mass leak of American secrets.

What did the prosecutors say?

Deputy Director of Public Prosecution Eva-Marie Persson took the decision to “discontinue the investigation regarding Julian Assange”, the Swedish Prosecution Authority said.

“The reason for this decision is that the evidence has weakened considerably due to the long period of time that has elapsed since the events in question,” it added.

Media caption Julian Assange being dragged from the Ecuadorean embassy in London

Ms Persson said: “I would like to emphasize that the injured party has submitted a credible and reliable version of events.

“Her statements have been coherent, extensive and detailed; however, my overall assessment is that the evidence situation has been weakened to such an extent that that there is no longer any reason to continue the investigation.”

The prosecutors said the decision had been taken after interviews with seven witnesses in the case.

What was the Swedish investigation about?

Assange was accused of rape by a woman and sexual assault by another one following a Wikileaks conference in Stockholm in 2010. He has always denied the allegations, saying the sex was consensual.

Media caption Who is Julian Assange?

He also faced investigations for molestation and unlawful coercion, but these cases were dropped in 2015 because time had run out.

The 10 Countries With The Most Billionaires

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRIP TRIVIA)

 

The 10 Countries With The Most Billionaires

 

Countries With the Most Billionaires

The world is home to about 2,754 billionaires who together control $9.2 trillion in wealth, according to the 2018 Billionaire Census, compiled annually by Wealth-X.

While billionaires are spread out all over the globe, that wealth is concentrated in a small handful of countries. As it turns out, 40 percent of the world’s billionaires reside in the countries below.

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10. United Arab Emirates

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The United Arab Emirates, or UAE, is an oil-rich Arab nation on the Persian Gulf. It’s also home to 62 billionaires who together have a total wealth of $168 billion.

Dubai, the capital city, is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, thanks to architectural wonders like the Burj Khalifa — which is currently the tallest building in the world. Dubai is also home to 65 percent of the nation’s billionaires, according to Wealth-X data.

9. Saudi Arabia

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Saudi Arabia is a mecca for billionaires, literally and figuratively. The country ties its neighbor for the total number of billionaires with 62, but it’s got the UAE beat in terms of shared wealth. Saudi billionaires hold a total of $169 billion, $1 billion more than their Emirati counterparts.

Saudi Arabia is the largest economy in the Middle East, thanks to the more than 266,000 barrels of untapped oil lying beneath its desert sands. The nation exports more oil than any other country, and the size of its reserve is second only to Venezuela.

8. United Kingdom

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The United Kingdom is home to 90 billionaires at last count, who together hold $251 billion.

You might be surprised to learn that Queen Elizabeth II isn’t among them; she’s worth only half a billion. The U.K. billionaire club includes a diverse list of business people such as steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal ($18.9 billion), bagless vacuum inventor Sir James Dyson and family ($12.3 billion), and Virgin Atlantic founder and space cowboy Richard Branson ($4.1 billion).

But you’ve probably never heard of the U.K’s richest man: Jim Ratcliffe, CEO of London-based chemical manufacturer Ineos. Ratliffe is entirely self-made, mortgaging his house to buy his first chemical assets.

7. Hong Kong

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We know, we know. Hong Kong isn’t really a country, per se. It is a semi-autonomous region of China. But its high concentration of billionaires makes it worthy of distinction. The city-state has a total of 93 billionaires worth a combined $315 billion.

In terms of billionaire cities, Hong Kong is ranked second, nestled between New York (#1) and San Francisco (#3). Hong Kong owes its wealth to more than a century of British rule, which came to an end in 1997. Possessing one of the world’s busiest shipping ports, Hong Kong became a manufacturing powerhouse.

The country’s richest person is 90-year-old entrepreneur Li Ka-shing. A high school dropout, Li made his fortune in plastic manufacturing, port development, and retail.

6. Russia

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Russia is home to 96 billionaires worth a combined $351 billion. That number doesn’t include the net worth of President Vladimir Putin, who is rumored to be the world’s richest man with $200 billion in secret assets. But according to documents filed with the Russian election commission, Putin only claims to earn an average annual salary of $112,000.

Officially, Russia’s richest man is Leonid Mikhelson at $23.6 billion. Mikhelson is CEO of Novatek, Russia’s largest independent natural gas company. He’s among the politically powerful Russian oligarchs who rose to power after rapidly gobbling up assets when Russia’s state-owned companies went private.

5. Switzerland

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Switzerland has 99 billionaires worth a total of $265 billion. That’s a high concentration of billionaires for such a small country, and once a year it gets even more concentrated. CEOs and heads of state from all over the world descend upon the snowy ski-town of Davos at the beginning every year for the World Economic Forum.

Many Swiss billionaires owe their riches to the banking and financial industry. Provided the country’s neutral status during both World Wars, and its centuries-long tradition of secrecy, Swiss banks became a global favorite. In 2018 it was estimated that Swiss banks held $6.5 trillion in assets, which is a quarter of all global cross-border assets.

4. India

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India is a country of extremes. About 58 percent of the population lives in extreme poverty, surviving off less than $3.10 a day. It is also home to one of the fastest-growing economies and 104 billionaires in total. Together India’s billionaires are worth $299 billion.

The country’s richest man is Mukesh Ambani, who is worth an estimated $49.6 billion. He owns 43 percent of Reliance Industries, which owns a little bit of everything: energy, oil, textiles, retail stores and telecom. Ambani also owns a professional cricket team, the Mumbai Indians.

3. Germany

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With 152 in total, you might be asking why Germany has so many billionaires. The answer is cars, machines, chemicals, electronics and groceries.

As it turns out, that “Germany engineering” you always hear about is a real thing, and it’s worth a lot of money. German billionaires control a total of $466 billion in assets, much of it earned from industrial and chemical manufacturing companies.

But the country’s richest person is Dieter Schwarz, whose company owns Europe’s largest supermarket chains, Lidl and Kaufland. At 79, Schwarz is worth a whopping $24.9 billion.

2. China

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At 338, China is home to 12 percent of the world’s billionaires who together possess $1 trillion in total wealth. Deng Xiaoping, who served as leader from 1978 to 1989, paved the way for the country’s growth by drastically reforming the economy. Flash forward to today where China generates a new billionaire every two days, according to UBS. The richest among them is Alibaba founder Jack Ma, with a net worth of $40.1 billion.

1. The United States

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The United States is far and away the leader when it comes to billionaires with a total of 680. That is 25 percent of all billionaires in the world. U.S. billionaires have more than $3.16 trillion in assets combined.

America’s four richest billionaires are household names: Amazon founder Jeff Bezos ($120 billion), Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates ($95.5 billion), investing genius Warren Buffett ($82.5 billion) and Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg ($65.9 billion).

 

 

U.K. government says Brexit deal is “essentially impossible”

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CBS NEWS)

 

U.K. government says Brexit deal is “essentially impossible”

London — Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office told British journalists Tuesday that reaching a Brexit deal with the European Union ahead of the upcoming October 31 deadline was “essentially impossible.” Johnson’s government was reacting to a call between the him and German Chancellor Angela Merkel earlier in the day, during which Merkel reportedly said it was “overwhelmingly unlikely” any deal could be reached based on proposals Johnson sent to the EU last week.

The dire outlook presented by Johnson’s government sparked a war of words with European Council President Donald Tusk, who tweeted directly at the prime minister: “What’s at stake is not winning some stupid blame game. At stake is the future of Europe and the UK as well as the security and interests of our people. You don’t want a deal, you don’t want an extension, you don’t want to revoke, quo vadis?” (Quo vadis is Latin for “where are you going.”)

Donald Tusk

@eucopresident

.@BorisJohnson, what’s at stake is not winning some stupid blame game. At stake is the future of Europe and the UK as well as the security and interests of our people. You don’t want a deal, you don’t want an extension, you don’t want to revoke, quo vadis?

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The U.K. is set to leave the EU on October 31, but legislation recently passed by Britain’s Parliament requires Prime Minister Johnson to ask Brussels for an extension if the House of Commons doesn’t endorse a deal or consent to a no-deal Brexit by October 19. It’s unclear whether Johnson’s government might be able to find a loophole in that legislation that would enable it to stick to his promise to pull Britain out of the EU, with or without a deal, on the 31st.

There was “skepticism” within EU circles over the U.K.’s description of Johnson’s call with Merkel, CBS News partner network BBC News reported. A spokesman for Merkel’s office declined to comment on confidential conversations.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, the U.K. government published a “No-Deal Readiness Report,” outlining preparations it has made in the event the U.K. does leave the EU without an agreement.

Previously leaked government documents laid out the possibility of medicine and food shortages in the U.K. should Britain leave with no deal, as well as potential civil unrest.

The plan published Tuesday detailed what the government has done to try and avoid those worst-case scenarios — many of which had been previously discussed. The “Readiness Report,” for example, notes the government has created a dedicated unit to support suppliers of medical goods in Britain, which could soon need to jump through additional hoops to ensure the integrity of  their supply chains.

“While we remain optimistic, we are also realistic about the need to plan for every eventuality,” the author of the report, Parliamentarian Michael Gove, said in the preface. “If we cannot secure a good agreement with the EU, we must be prepared to leave without a deal.”

What comes next

Parliament is expected to be suspended Tuesday evening until October 14 to give Johnson’s government the chance to set out a new legislative agenda in a “Queen’s Speech.” This comes after the Supreme Court ruled Johnson’s previous request for a suspension of Parliament — or “prorogation” — was illegal, because it shut down debate for what it said was an unreasonable amount of time.

On October 17 and 18, a summit of EU leaders will take place in Brussels ahead of the crucial date of October 19, when Johnson must ask the EU for a Brexit delay if a deal, or a no-deal Brexit, hasn’t been approved by Parliament.

The U.K. is currently set to leave the EU, with or without a Brexit deal, on October 31.

France, Germany, and UK say Iran is responsible for attacks on Saudi Arabia

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF VOX NEWS)

 

France, Germany, and UK say Iran is responsible for attacks on Saudi Arabia

“It is clear for us that Iran bears responsibility for this attack,” the leaders of the three European powers said. “There is no other explanation.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron attend a lunch on “digital transformation” in Biarritz, France, on August 26, 2019.
 Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

The Trump administration has blamed Iran for the attacks on two vital oil facilities belonging to Saudi Arabia’s state-run oil company Aramco nine days ago. That assertion was met with deep skepticism by politicians, experts, and even some US allies, mostly because the Trump administration has executed a maximum pressure campaign against the Islamic Republic and many believe Washington has exaggerated intelligence about Tehran in the past.

But America’s claim received a major boost on Monday as the leaders of three key allies — France, Germany, and the UK — put out a joint statement at the UN saying that there’s no question Iran was behind the apparent drone and missile strikes on Saudi Arabia.

“It is clear for us that Iran bears responsibility for this attack,” they said. “There is no other explanation.”

“These attacks may have been on Saudi Arabia but they concern all countries and increase the risk of a major conflict,” the statement continued. The European powers also called on Iran to act more responsibly and in line with the terms of the Iran nuclear deal.

Raphaël Justine@RaphJustine

Leaders of 🇫🇷, 🇩🇪 and the 🇬🇧 just met in NYC and issued a joint statement:

It is clear to us that Iran bears responsibility for this attack. There is no other plausible explanation. We support ongoing investigations to establish further details.

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This is significant. Ever since the US withdrew from the nuclear agreement last year, the European countries who are party to the agreement — which include the nations from the statement — have tried to maintain good relations with Tehran.

French President Emmanuel Macron in particular has worked tirelessly to keep the accord alive and even tried to broker a meeting between President Donald Trump and his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, at the UN this week.

But it seems they cannot ignore the intelligence they have, and decided to openly condemn the Islamic Republic.

With more allies on its side, the Trump administration may feel emboldened to increase the pressure on Tehran even more. That could come in the form of even more sanctions, or cyberattacks that can digitally render critical Iranian computers and networks useless. Those punishments could now be seen as more legitimate since other major world powers more friendly to Iran have also blamed it for the Saudi attacks.

Perhaps trying to fend off the worst, Iran has warned that a military response might prompt an “all-out war” in the Middle East.

The question now is how Iran will respond. With even more countries lambasting it publicly, it’s possible that it may choose more belligerence as a way to compel the US and others to lift the mounting economic and political pressure on it. If it goes that route, though, it may find itself in much more trouble than it’s already in.

Britain, Germany Slam Attack on Saudi Oil Plants, US Again Blames Iran

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Britain, Germany Slam Attack on Saudi Oil Plants, US Again Blames Iran

Monday, 16 September, 2019 – 11:45
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Britain and Germany condemned on Monday the attacks against Saudi Aramco oil facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson stands in support of his Saudi Arabian allies following an attack on its oil facilities which marked a “wanton violation of international law”, his spokesman said.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas slammed the attack, saying “the situation is exceedingly worrisome.”

He added that Berlin is currently evaluating with its partners, “who is responsible for this attack, how it could happen.”

Washington has blamed Iran for the attack.

The Tehran-backed Houthi militias in Yemen claimed Saturday’s strikes on the plants.

US President Donald Trump said Sunday the United States is “locked and loaded” to respond to the attack.

His accusations were echoed Monday by US Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, who said: “The United States wholeheartedly condemns Iran’s attack on Saudi Arabia and we call on other nations to do the same.”

In an address to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s general conference in Vienna, he said “this behavior is unacceptable” and that Iran “must be held responsible.”

“Make no mistake about it, this was a deliberate attack on the global economy and the global energy market,” he stressed.

He said Trump has authorized the release of strategic oil reserves should the US need them, and that his “department stands ready” to proceed if necessary.

Perry also added that “despite Iran’s malign efforts we are very confident that the market is resilient and will respond.”

Tehran and Washington have been at loggerheads since May last year, when Trump pulled the US out of a 2015 deal with world powers that promised Iran relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program.

Mike Pence accused of humiliating hosts in Ireland: ‘He shat on the carpet’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE UK EXPRESS)

 

Mike Pence accused of humiliating hosts in Ireland: ‘He shat on the carpet’

The vice-president’s comments on Brexit while visiting Ireland and his stay at his boss’s golf course did not go down well

Vice-President Mike Pence arrives in Doonbeg to dine with relatives at a seafood restaurant.
 Vice-President Mike Pence arrives in Doonbeg to dine with relatives at a seafood restaurant. Photograph: Jacob King/PA

Missteps during Mike Pence’s visit to Ireland that included controversial praise of the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, have led to accusations of betrayal and “humiliation”.

One Irish Times columnist concluded that the vice-president, a “much-anticipated visitor”, turned out to have “shat on the … carpet”.

Pence’s problems started with his decision to stay for two nights at Donald Trump’s golf resort in Doonbeg, County Clare, more than 140 miles from Dublin, necessitating costly and logistically complex travel. The move quickly drew fire from ethics experts and political rivals.

The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, called Trump’s properties a “cesspool of corruption” and accused the president of “prioritizing his profits over the interests of the American people”.

“Pence is just the latest Republican elected official to enable President Trump’s violations of the constitution,” she said.

A spokesman for the vice-president said the decision was partly based on the president’s suggestion Pence stay there, and partly on secret service concerns about costs and logistics. Questioned about the decision on Wednesday, Trump claimed he had “no involvement, other than it’s a great place”.

But that was only the start of the controversy.

The Irish Times columnist Miriam Lord responded to a tense meeting between the vice-president and the taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, in which Pence urged the republic to protect the “United Kingdom’s sovereignty”. That Varadkar is gay and Pence a past champion of anti-LGBTQ legislation in Indiana also caused widespread comment.

Pence laid on platitudes about being “deeply humbled” and “honored” to be visiting Doonbeg, the home of his mother’s grandmother. But in Dublin he offered his hosts a clear lesson in his administration’s political priorities.

“Let me be clear: the US supports the UK decision to leave the EU in Brexit,” Pence told Varadkar in a prepared statement. “But we also recognise the unique challenges on your northern border. And I can assure you we will continue to encourage the United Kingdom and Ireland to ensure that any Brexit respects the Good Friday agreement.”

Among media responses, Irish Central asked: “Did VP Pence betray Ireland in his Brexit comments during Irish trip?”

The Irish Examiner accused Pence of trying to “humiliate” the republic.

But Lord struck the most telling blow.

She described the impact of the Pence visit on Ireland as “like pulling out all the stops for a much-anticipated visitor to your home and thinking it has been a great success until somebody discovers he shat on the new carpet in the spare room, the one you bought specially for him”.

“As Pence read from the autocue and Irish eyes definitely stopped smiling,” she added, “it was clear he was channeling His Master’s Voice. Trump is a fan of Brexit and of Boris.”

“Pence,” Lord continued, “is Irish American and wastes no opportunity to go misty-eyed about his love for the ‘Old Country’ as he lards on his Mother Machree schtick on both sides of the Atlantic.”

Lord wasn’t alone in her criticism. The Cork Examiner’s political editor, Daniel McConnell, wrote: “The cheek of him coming here, eating our food, clogging up our roads and then having the nerve to humiliate his hosts.”

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China: British PM in limbo after MPs reject his Brexit plan, elections

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI CHINA NEWS AGENCY ‘SHINE’)

 

British PM in limbo after MPs reject his Brexit plan, elections

AFP
British PM in limbo after MPs reject his Brexit plan, elections

AFP

A handout photograph released by the UK Parliament shows Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson gesturing as he reacts to main opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn during his first Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons in London on September 4, 2019.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government was left in limbo on Wednesday after MPs voted to derail his Brexit plan and rejected his call for an early election to break the political deadlock.

Just six weeks after taking office, Johnson lost his majority in the House of Commons as his own MPs joined opposition parties to stop him taking Britain out of the EU next month without a deal.

On Wednesday evening, they approved a bill that could force Johnson to delay Brexit to January or even later if he cannot agree exit terms with Brussels in time.

Johnson says he does not want a “no deal” exit on October 31 but says he must keep that option open in order to get an agreement.

He said the bill, which was being debated in the upper House of Lords into the night, “destroys the ability of government to negotiate” — and said he had no option to call an election to win a new mandate.

“If I’m still prime minister after (the vote on) Tuesday October 15 then we will leave on October 31 with, I hope, a much better deal,” he told MPs.

Labour rejects ‘cynical’ move

But in yet another twist in the tortuous Brexit process, the opposition Labour Party refused to vote for the election, which requires the backing of two-thirds of MPs.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said that while he wanted an election, he would not support the prime minister’s “cynical” call until the law blocking “no deal” was implemented.

The default legal position is that Britain will leave the EU on October 31 unless it delays or asks to stay in the bloc.

Corbyn said: “Let this bill pass, then gain royal assent, then we will back an election so we do not crash out with a no-deal exit from the European Union.”

Johnson accused Corbyn of being frightened of losing, but urged the opposition to reconsider over the next few days.

For now, he is unable to pursue his Brexit plan — the central focus of his leadership — or call an election that might change the situation.

Across the Atlantic, US President Donald Trump earlier offered his support, telling reporters: “Boris knows how to win. Don’t worry about him. He’s going to be OK.”

‘Sham’ negotiations

Johnson took office in July, three years after the 2016 referendum vote to leave the EU, promising to deliver Brexit whatever happens.

He says he wants to renegotiate the divorce deal his predecessor Theresa May agreed with Brussels, while at the same time stepping up preparations for a disorderly exit.

Johnson insisted his team was making “substantial progress.”

But the bloc has so far refused to reopen the text, and a senior EU source poured cold water on the idea that a deal could be struck at next month’s Brussels summit.

The European Commission says Britain has yet to come up with any alternative for the most controversial element of the current deal, the so-called “backstop” plan for the Irish border.

Corbyn said the negotiations Johnson talked about “are a sham — all he’s doing is running down the clock.”

The European Commission also said the risk of a “no deal” exit has increased, a prospect many fear because of the economic damage risked by severing 46 years of UK-EU ties overnight.

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